Muzzles, Snouts or Beaks


Yesterday, on the way to music lessons, there was a lively conversation in the car between my six-year old and my nine-year old about whether the word muzzle and snout could be used interchangeably. Ben is a huge reader, and he was saying that a writer will use muzzle instead of snout sometimes, and then other times talk about a snout. At first I thought that it could be a synonym of some sort, but in certain animals it doesn’t work. One wouldn’t call a pig’s snout a muzzle. Then Bean piped in that he believed cows have beaks.

Ben and I tried to convince Bean that cows by no stretch of the imagination have beaks, that those are only for birds, but Bean wasn’t budging.

I remembered seeing a mammal of some sort with a beak, but it was in a movie. It was a scary creature, on the White Witches side of the battle in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. As I was trying to describe it to the boys, it dawned on me that many of the scary creatures of imagination have no noses at all, like Voldemort in the Harry Potter stories, and the ugly Orck in The Hobbit.

We started talking about why scary creatures often have no noses, and decided that it must be because they are representing something from the side of death. A skeleton has no nose. Bean didn’t believe me, he is certain our noses have a bone, but we have a skeleton head from when Ben wanted to be a doctor, and there is most certainly no bone there.

From here, the discussion shifted into the realm of imagination and myth. Ben suggested that maybe if something is only in the mind of one person, like in their own dream or nightmare, it is simply called something imaginary. If the something is known or imagined by a large group of people, or the whole world, it becomes myth – it is something envisioned on a large-scale.

These are the conversations made possible by reading and immersion in fairy tales.


This week I finished one of the best books I can remember reading in a very long time. It was so good, I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to stay in the world of Island Books, the village, their book clubs and reading circles, the families, and the love stories of nerdy literature lovers forever. I slowed my pace way down and savored the book.

Yesterday afternoon, the boys walked in on me as I was finishing the last pages, and crying. I wasn’t sobbing. I had tears running down my face. I couldn’t stop them. Every word of this book was exquisite. “All the right words in all the right places,” – a line from the book. Truly. And the ending perfectly fit the rest of the book, and I was mourning the loss of such beauty.

Bean asked, “Is this the book you didn’t want to finish because it was so good?”

“Yes, Honey, which is why I’m crying. But here I am at the end, and I very much want to see what happens.”

This is one that will stay with me.


It makes me happy that my boys like to read, and are already devouring books on their own. I cherish that we can discuss books and ideas, and bounce thoughts around for fun.


photo from here

The book I was reading: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (Affiliate link)

The Tapestry of Intention


Recently, I’ve gotten back to a daily writing of poetry in the early morning. I have also been going through another one of Julia Cameron’s writing challenge books, “Walking in this World,” and was instructed to write about my intention for writing. Continue reading


Today in Adorable-Land!

Yesterday, we got our first batch of chicks for this year. Scott brought one in to sit on Bean’s shoulder, with the resulting overload of cute!

And our goat, Madrone, our very first goat – had two baby boys. It is difficult to get good pictures of the babies out in the barn this soon, with the light and everything. So Scott brought the one with the ridiculous ears in this morning for a pose. You cannot possibly imagine how soft their fur is, or how snuggly they can be. Precious beyond words!




Open-Mic Poetry Gathering

Did I ever show you this handmade gift from Benjamin this year? Talk about a gift that went straight to my heart. I have never cried more over a present in my life. That he knew my deepest desire, and created something to represent me getting that artistic need fulfilled… If you look closely, there are tubes up on the stage to put each of the sitting people into to help them stand. And there is an open seat in the audience. This is a working model of an Open-Mic night. You can move various audience members up onto the stage for their moment in the spotlight.

Ben has been to an Open-Mic night with me and knows how one works. That time, he read one of his poems.

Christmastime at our house was a bit dramatic this last year – with lots of snow and ice and freezing pipes and pregnant animals to care for in the middle of all that. Ben started making things for each of us because we just weren’t getting the tree up or presents under it quick enough. He ended up making our tree – out of a tall lamp and lampshade, and everything to go with it – out of paper.


Throw-Back Thursday: Another Year, Another Show

These photos are all from the 2009 show, Strengthen Me with Raisins. Back in 2007, I performed my very first Poetry Show as part of the Rogue Festival in Fresno, CA. I was 39 years old, and I floated away from my first Standing Ovation, not physically touching the ground.

These are the shows I did back in California.

2007 – Come Now I Will Test You With Pleasure
2008 – Again, You will Take Up Your Tambourines
2009 – Strengthen Me With Raisins
2010 – Every Other Beat of My Heart

The first one, honestly, I had no idea how to name it, and so I made a deal with God that I would put my finger down at random in the Bible, and name my show whatever words I discovered there. When I landed on, “Come now I will test you with pleasure,” from the Song of Solomon, I gasped, and clutched. I didn’t want anyone to think my show was seedy. I talked to a few friends, and my dad, who is a pastor, and my pastor at the time to get their opinion, and they all said to go with it. As it turns out, God was a really good Marketing Guy that year. More people showed up to my poetry show than I could have imagined, and many said they didn’t normally like poetry, but thought they’d give it a try – the title was intriguing.

The second and third shows were also named after obscure verses of scripture which had also been incorporated into poems. The last show was a quote that Scott used about me when he was describing how much he loved me to a client. He said, “She is every other beat of my heart,” and I realized that he may be more of a poet than I’ll ever be. He says gorgeous things. I just observe and write down what I see.

Then, we moved to Oregon in 2010, and as much as I wanted to drive down to Fresno to continue participating in the Rogue Festival, it wasn’t possible. It has been four years without a show. Then, last week, I saw a Call to Artists for a new Fringe Festival in Ashland, Oregon – which is just a hop, skip and a jump from here. As I was reading up on it, I found that they want Combinations – two or more artistic expressions in each show. So, I asked Ben if he would like to do a show with me combining his Paper-craft and my Poetry. He said Yes!

This will be our first show together. He has so much to display, so much of his heart and his focus and determination to create. He wakes up every single day with a plan and will focus on it until he creates what is in his head. There is art all over our house, lining every hallway. His art supplies are everywhere as well, he stuffs the laundry room with cardboard. If he’s shopping with me, any grocery store worker he sees carrying empty boxes, he’ll stop and say, “Can I have those please? I’m an artist.” And always, without fail, people hand over their cardboard to him and ask him about his art.

The deadline for submissions is tomorrow, and I’m still trying to come up with a title. We have thought of all sorts of things, and nothing is screaming to me – “Yes! That’s It!” yet.

At first, Ben and I thought we could name our show 9:47 – representing his age and mine at the time of our first show. But, Scott is vetoing the name 9:47 as too basic. I am wracking my brain for a good title. What a crazy-making proposition – to try to encapsulate in two or three words the art and poetry surrounding and encompassing the two of us. Ben is both mentor and muse to me, as well as daily strife. I have until tomorrow to come up with something.

Of course, Ben wants it to include “The Amazing…” as part of the title.

Oh, Help!

For most of today, I’ve been going round and round in my head, and on scratch paper, trying to come up with a title. Finally, I pulled for some inspiration and read about laughing in the face of struggles. Rather than stress about this, I want to refocus my energies on coming up with words that come to my mind when presented with a big pile of paper. I can’t wait to fill it. Ben can’t wait to cut it or fold it into a sculpture. He sculpts. I scribble. Ah!


Sculpt & Scribe

Son, Mom, Paper-craft, Poetry


Benjamin Garner & Liesl Garner

What do you think?!





Where to from here?


For the last week, I’ve been mulling over the reckless idea of a Singleness of Purpose. It floors me, the thought. I’ve been wondering about it almost nonstop – as if the quest for a Singleness of Purpose has been my purpose lately. Who are the people who seem to have one? People who dedicate large swaths of time to writing a book, who research and delve in, get to know the subject, who faithfully tell a story from beginning to end. Or someone like Columbus, whose whole mission in life was to sail across the ocean, and everything he did was for that aim.

I complained to my sister over the phone about this, thinking out loud about how does one have such dedication to a lifelong task, and she pointed out that Columbus didn’t have children.

That seems to razzle-dazzle the whole thing, there, doesn’t it? There doesn’t ever seem to be a point when we can think, “I’ve got this!” To me, it always feels like I’m in a mad scramble to catch up to my kids, or keep up with them (audible laughter).

This was my kick for the last little bit, after sending Ben back to school, wondering where to put my focus next. There are so many projects. There are so many jobs attached to my name. We farm, and my seeds aren’t even in little pots to start yet and already there are flowers blooming all over town. I need to get on that. My husband has been the one handling most of the farming lately, and he needs help. I need to get my muck boots on and get out there and help with some cleaning projects, and organizing projects. We need to get our chicks for the year.

And I started cooking again. Not just to get food to the table, but with a desire to learn to love it. I scoured the bookshelves for something to inspire me, because the most I know how to do with vegetables is steam them. There must be more to it, and if I could learn how to present them, we might be more excited about the chore of growing them.

It started to feel that everything was a chore. So much work to do. So many piles of laundry. So many dishes. So much paper sent home from school. I was spinning in listlessness with too much to do.

Then I remembered, that I’m a poet. It has been a long time since I put a pen to paper. My laptop has been broken, and this computer is meant for work, so I try to keep them separate. But my heart sees poetry in everything. My mother told me long ago that the poems I am writing these days, are my children. She said this once when I was bemoaning the lack of time to focus on my craft. And when she put it in this way, I realized that every moment spent with my children is etching lines of poetry on their hearts and mine. I learned to enjoy rather than moan about it.

Which is to say, after some aimless wandering over the last couple of weeks, I remembered that I do have a singleness of purpose after all. It’s not perhaps as grand as to sail across an ocean and discover strange new lands. It is to fill my home with love and laughter, to see the poetry in boys who continually come to the door covered in mud, professing to having not seen that puddle at all. To see the poetry in meals tied together with the right spice, or bursting with color. To know that I tuck poetry in around the edges of my family’s days here because that is my center. Whether I’m actually writing it or not, that is my world view.

For some reason, that internal discussion was a bit of a battle. I want a direction. I want to know I’m heading somewhere. And the where for me at this point, is to settle in and do these things well. I am a bit of a rambler. It is often more fun for me to think about things than actually do them. And so, to see each job in my repertoire as stanzas of verse, makes the whole thing much more lovely. Mucking out a stall doesn’t have to be mundane, if I know it is creating something delightful somewhere else. All this goes to the garden, and all that will flourish eventually.

Oh, and then there’s the Goat’s Milk Soaps that we will be attempting. My Goat’s Milk Fudge flopped, but it was a fun experiment.

photo from here


Transition Time


It has been a while since I wrote anything here. I have to admit I’ve been a little discouraged and down, perhaps in a bit of a depression for the last couple of weeks. Despite all my best intentions, we have decided to put Ben back into regular school. He is doing well. He missed his friends. I think we both needed to try this. We had it in the back of our minds anytime things weren’t going well at school, that we could always just bring him home and teach him here. Well, it is so much more difficult than that.

He and I are both distracted easily by shiny objects, and sticking to any sort of plan was hard to do, plus, we are so much alike that we butt heads like my mother and I used to do. It took me becoming a grown-up to see her wisdom and regard her as a wonderful resource and inspiration. Before growing up, she annoyed me a little bit. I know Ben loves me, as I loved my mother, I just had a hard time taking instruction from her, and so it is with Ben.

We had a lot of fun, but we are moving back to a traditional schooling model, and getting me back to focused time in the office for our tree service.

We found that we were exhausted all the time. I was getting up at the crack of dawn to plan interesting lessons, that he was often less than thrilled to follow, and so my heart would hurt. Nothing about either decision was done recklessly – either to take him out of school or to put him back into school. Both decisions were hard and thought through from every perceivable angle. We thought we could do this, and now we know it will take a lot more discipline than we currently possess, if we ever decide to try this again.

I am thinking that I would rather be the mom who encourages some fun explorations and plans art excursions – rather than the one coming up with every lesson. I would rather them get their basics from their teachers, and let me tuck in all the fun, wild adventures around the edges. That is way more up my alley.

Yesterday Ben came home from school whistling. I cannot tell you how much that fed my soul.


Wild Beyond Wild, Calm Within Calm


We have been Home Schooling for a bit now, and there have been good days and struggling days. My Ben is so much like me that we can butt heads. We are learning how to work together for mutual benefit.

In the process of beginning Home Schooling, I let the Homestead fall to the wayside. I started buying packaged foods because I didn’t have time to make food. Something about that seemed like a loss.

As I look at the Tao for my weekly dose of Community Discussion on that topic (over at Tao Te Ching Daily), I find I am more drained and unsure than ever. What am I doing here? I have lost my way. (These are all sections of Chapter 38 of the Tao te Ching)

“The Master does nothing,

yet he leaves nothing undone.

The ordinary man is always doing things,

yet many more are left to be done”

That would be me – doing and doing and doing, and trying to pack knowledge into Ben and more and more and more is being left undone.


We live on a farm. There is so much to learn here about life and the cycle of life, the seasons, the planting and growing and harvesting, preserving, setting aside for later, living off what we have or make, bounty, wide open spaces, climbing trees, and building forts. This is what we focus on, and this is where we learn.

I am exploring Unschooling as a real option. My kids are curious. They always have questions. I want to go toward their curiosities, and not have to tell them those questions don’t fit into our lesson plan. Life is education. Life is about learning and making mistakes and learning from them and trying again.

This is not easy to talk about because there are people who will think we’ve fallen off the face of the planet, that we are now raising wolves… well… we are in a way (see here, here and here). This is outside of the mold, and I know that. I like to be able to check off little boxes, so this will take some getting used to for me. However, this is the way my children learn best – by going off on little tangents of curiosity and delving into a subject, and reading up on it, or scouring the internet for ideas and answers to their questions. We are going to learn together, and play together, and build and design and do art, and raise animals and feed ourselves.

We have our first Music Lessons tonight, and we’ll probably look at 4H or Future Farmers or something like that for some group activities.

My mind is full of hope and joy right now.

“When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.

When goodness is lost, there is morality.

When morality is lost, there is ritual.

Ritual is the husk of true faith,

the beginning of chaos.”

I do not know what that means. Somehow, I am seeing that I enjoy ritual, and perhaps it is because I have lost my center. I am skirting the edges of chaos on a daily basis, and trying to bring ritual in as a way to save us. Perhaps there is something deeper. There are several more layers up that I need to go. I am clinging on to the lowest rungs on the ladder.

“Therefore the Master concerns himself

with the depths and not the surface,

with the fruit and not the flower.

He has no will of his own.

He dwells in reality,

and lets all illusions go.”

In my desire to educate my children, I do not want to look at just the surface – the test scores, and whether they know dates and random names from History – I want to look at the depths – do they understand kindness and justice and respect?

There have always been revolutions. Why have people been revolting? That is a question worth asking and looking at and we will delve in to see history through the lens of art, and through the lens of rebels and wild men, of people seeking a better life for themselves, of sages seeking sanctuary. We will explore dance through the ages, and inventions through the ages, building projects and design conundrums – because these are the things that interest my boys. I think we will learn plenty. With joy.

I am letting go of the illusions that I know what they need, or that the education system knows what they need or will need in 20 years. The world is going to be more different than we can fathom. Kids that learn to figure things out on their own will thrive.

This may be the direction I have always wanted to go – the Little House on the Prairie sort of learning style – reading as a family and working together and figuring stuff out as we go.

photo from here

SDRandCo (2)

Books, Bookshelves, Gluttony, Desire, and Breakdowns

SDRandCo (2)

Yesterday, I shared this update on my personal Facebook page:

I have a problem. I am not a civilized reader. I read like a glutton or a hoodlum – gobbling what I can from as many books as I can all at the same time. It’s a disaster. It is not calm. It is not ladylike. I’m a depraved book junkie. It is hopeless, I’m afraid. There are half-eaten sentences flung over the back of the sofa and strewn all through the house, apostrophes are dangling from the lampshades and exclamation points are tearing up the kitchen floor with dance.

Ben and I had started the day looking at the Writing Studios of Famous Writers, their desks, their books piled everywhere, and their glamorous, enormous, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. I nearly cried. I cannot find any great photos that I can share without permission, but a quick Google Search will give you more than you can ever handle of bookshelf envy.

We did a little work on the hieroglyphs, and watched a video, but I was off. It wasn’t my best day.

Today was a skip school day. I had computer tech support issues that kept me on the phone all morning for work. Half the time I was in tears, because help desk people are so maddeningly unhelpful.

I am currently reading about how the brains of children develop and how to assist them in integrating their left and right brain functions. New discoveries are showing that the remapping of neurons and their little dances across synapses can happen throughout life – not just in young brains. It is entirely possible to retrain ourselves to have different, calmer, more centered reactions to even the most complex stimuli and stresses – even children!

So, throughout the help desk call, I’m working really hard to stay calm and not start throwing things. I’m jittery and emotionally fragile and compromised by the time we go to pick up Bean.

We go to get haircuts, and our lady Barber asks how we are liking home school. Ben scowls and says he’s miserable. My eyes start crying no matter how strong and nonchalant I am trying to appear.

Connie says, “Looks like mom could use a spa day,” and the tears just start to flow. I’m not sobbing, yet, but my face is leaking.

On the way to the car, and after I hug Connie way too hard, the boys ask me why I’m crying. I say that it really hurts my feelings for Ben to talk about being miserable when I’m trying so hard to keep his interests first and foremost and bring so much inventiveness and fun to our lessons.

The drive home is spent listening to loud music and pouting. At home, I’m making lunches and can barely breathe because I’m crying so hard. Maybe we chalk this up to one of those things we tried, but it just didn’t work. I so want it to work, and my heart is breaking, and I’m so dang tired.

Then Ben sidles up to me and says, “You wanna know why I say I hate home school, Mom?”

Yes, please. And at the same time, do I really want to hear this?

“I just say it to fit in,” he says. “What kid my age is going to say he likes school? Only nerds say that. But the truth is, I like it. I think it’s fun. I’m just not going to say that in public.”

And he hugs me tight, and puts all my broken-hearted little pieces back together again like that.

Still, I’m wiped out from the journey to the edge and back.

photo from here

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